Is there hope for the spiraling San Jose Sharks to rebound this season?

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 29: San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) during a game between the Boston Bruins and the San Jose Sharks on October 29, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 29: San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) during a game between the Boston Bruins and the San Jose Sharks on October 29, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The San Jose Sharks are floundering to start the 2019-20 NHL season. Why are the once-dominant Sharks looking toothless this year?

Something is rotten in the city of San Jose. The San Jose Sharks, at the early stages of November, are not looking like the competent hockey team we’ve seen in years past. In the first week of November, the Sharks are 4-10-1 in their first 15 games of the season, and are in a four-way tie for the league’s worst team.

Head coach Peter DeBoer called out the team at the beginning of the month, saying the Sharks need to play with more “attitude” in their game after their five-game road trip ended with five straight losses. There’s not much positivity going on right now in San Jose, so much so that even the advanced statistics are showing just how dire the Sharks’ situation is.

We’re not trying to pile on on the Sharks here, but let’s unpack just what has gone wrong for San Jose in their first 15 games of the season.

What’s gone wrong for the Sharks this year?

For starters, the Sharks are in the NHL’s basement on two important statistics: goals for and goals against. So far in the 2019-20 NHL season, the Sharks have 36 goals for in 15 games, an average of 2.4 goals per game that ranks fifth-worst in the league. In the past three seasons, the Sharks were a top-five team in terms of goals per game in the NHL (3.52 over the past four full seasons), and were a top-10 team in terms of 5-on-5 goals during that span, according to Natural Stat Trick.

In the offseason, the Sharks lost captain and 38-goal scorer from a season ago, Joe Pavelski, to the Dallas Stars in free agency. San Jose brought back Patrick Marleau to the team in October, but didn’t add any meaningful goal scoring to the team in light of Pavelski’s departure. The team has Evander KaneBrent Burns, Tomas HertlLogan Couture and Erik Karlsson as players who can put up the points, but Pavelski’s absence looms large now.

As for the goaltending, San Jose’s tandem of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have produced less than stellar results, with a combined .884 save percentage between them in 15 games overall. That combined save percentage is the NHL’s third-worst this season, with only New Jersey and Los Angeles behind them in the NHL standings.

Jones in particular has been disappointing for the Sharks for the second year in a row. Last season, the Sharks’ starting goaltender posted a .896 save percentage in 62 regular season games played, a career-low for the seven-year NHL veteran.

The Sharks in particular are also an older hockey team, with their average team age sitting at 29.2 on the season, the NHL’s fourth highest according to Hockey Reference. San Jose has two 40-year-olds on their roster, in Joe Thornton and Marleau. The Boston Bruins employ the oldest player in the league, 42-year-old Zdeno Chara, while the Sharks are the only other team in the NHL with a player over the age of 40 on their roster, and they have two of them.

Is there hope for the Sharks to turn their season around?

An aging core with a stagnant offense and poor goaltending has sunk the Sharks so far in the 2019-20 season, and with just nine points on the year things look grim in San Jose. The Sharks could fire head coach DeBoer to shake things up with the team, even though San Jose reportedly extended him to a multi-year contract extension last season.

DeBoer is certainly not a bad head coach, as he got the Sharks to a playoff spot in each of his last four seasons with the team as they did not finish below third in the Pacific Division during his tenure in San Jose. Firing DeBoer won’t solve the Sharks’ problems this season, as the team needs a roster readjustment that even their head coach can’t solve.

The Sharks could very well go on a St. Louis Blues-style run to the end of their season and make the postseason, but this team does not have the feel that they’re primed for a resurgence with the pieces they have on their roster. At this point, the problems stem deeper than a mid-season trade or firing could solve for San Jose.

DeBoer may get the hook in the coming weeks for the Sharks should their terrible stretch continue, but it will take a lot more than that for San Jose to get back in contention this season.

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